Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Following his contribution to a Parliamentary debate on asylum seekers from France, Peter Lilley has been invited to discuss the crisis with French diplomats. Mr. Lilley will meet the Ministre Conseiller, Stephane Gompertz, on Wednesday 20th March.

    In the debate on 29th January Peter Lilley called on the Government to renegotiate the bilateral arrangement with France that up to 1997 enabled Britain to send straight back to France any asylum seekers entering Britain across the channel.

    Peter Lilley said:

    “I am looking forward to meeting the Ministre Conseiller to hear what measures the French Government would be willing to take to curtail the one way flow of asylum seekers entering Britain from France and to close the camp at Sangatte.

    “Last year, the number of people claiming political asylum in the UK was greater than the entire population of Hitchin and Harpenden. Most are economic migrants who come from miserably poor and disturbed countries. However, this country cannot solve those countries? problems by granting asylum seekers unlimited entry. The most humane thing we can do is speedily return those who are not genuine refugees whence they came.

    “Under the Geneva Convention, asylum seekers should seek sanctuary in the first safe country they come to, rather than shop around for the one offering the most favourable conditions. So we have the right to return those who come from a safe country like France. Between 1995 and 1997 many asylum seekers were returned to France under a bilateral agreement negotiated by the Conservative government. But this was allowed to lapse in 1997 with the introduction of the Dublin Convention.

    “In January, I urged the government to renegotiate that agreement before the current crisis got totally out of hand. So far, we have heard little from the British government. I shall be keen to learn whether the French government is willing to consider restoring arrangements which worked well between 1995 and 1997.?